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Biochemistry. 2016 Jan 19;55(2):253-61. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.5b01171. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

Role of the Interdomain Linker in RNA-Activated Protein Kinase Activation.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and ‡Department of Chemistry, University of Connecticut , Storrs, Connecticut 06269, United States.


RNA-activated protein kinase (PKR) is a key component of the interferon-induced antiviral pathway in higher eukaryotes. Upon recognition of viral dsRNA, PKR is activated via dimerization and autophosphorylation. PKR contains two N-terminal dsRNA binding domains (dsRBD) and a C-terminal kinase domain. The dsRBDs and the kinase are separated by a long, unstructured ∼80-amino acid linker in the human enzyme. The length of the N-terminal portion of the linker varies among PKR sequences, and it is completely absent in one ortholog. Here, we characterize the effects of deleting the variable region from the human enzyme to produce PKRΔV. The linker deletion results in quantitative but not qualitative changes in catalytic activity, RNA binding, and conformation. PKRΔV is somewhat more active and exhibits more cooperative RNA binding. As we previously observed for the full-length enzyme, PKRΔV is flexible in solution and adopts a range of compact and extended conformations. The conformational ensemble is biased toward compact states that might be related to weak interactions between the dsRBD and kinase domains. PKR retains RNA-induced autophosphorylation upon complete removal of the linker, indicating that the C-terminal, basic region is also not required for activity.

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